The first psalm echoes the words of the prophets, from Moses to Malachi to Zechariah: There are two paths. Leading to two ultimate destinies. The way up. And the way down.
We pray, with desperate insistence, that the Lord in His goodness will help us to stay on the right path. We pray that He will deliver us from our enemies who try to lead us down the wrong one. We rely on God’s grace and mercy. We have no hope without God’s help.
Because Jesus has revealed the love of God to us, we have complete confidence in the divine assistance. We rest our souls in His provident care. And we can smile and laugh and make merry with light hearts, we can eat pancakes in a park in the rain at mid-day, because God is so good as to help us get to heaven, even though what we really deserve is to be left to flounder our way to hell.
Christian joy has nothing of the frivolous in it. The flower of our happiness in the Lord grows from the soil of the fundamental dead seriousness of being human.
Dogs can frolic and gambol their way through their lives, focusing exclusively on tennis balls and squirrels. Cats can nap away their time.
But being human means accepting the eternal drama of every decisive moment. In this moment, I can choose good or evil. And what I choose matters.
It is not too much to say that all the countless stars in the sky, and the vast oceans and prairies, and all the thousands of species of beetles, and everything else that makes up the material cosmos—it is not too much to say that all of it exists for one reason: so that at this moment I can choose good and reject evil. It exists so that I can choose to love selflessly and humbly and justly and honestly and follow Christ to heaven.
The moral beings of the earth, the ones with minds and free wills—we moral beings reign as the kings and queens of time and space. Each of us rules over a domain more precious than all the gold and diamond mines of Africa: my own choices. How I exercise my transcendent power to choose good and reject evil—how I exercise it means everything.
A person can know the light-hearted joy of Christ because he or she takes him- or herself seriously as a human being. A serious person takes this responsibility. What do we call this seriousness? I think we call it religion. I think we call it reality.
God made me, and I owe Him everything. He has taught me right from wrong, and I owe Him the careful study of all that He has taught. He made me free, and I owe Him good actions.